Hornets senior Rocye Newman fights through the double team, looking for a passing lane during Nashville’s 59-53 win over Hillsboro.
By Brent Huelsmann
For the third time in four years, the Nashville Hornets have won a Regional Championship. The Hornets defeated the Hillsboro Hilltoppers, and the Greenville Comets on their way to the regional crown. The Hornets now advance to the Pinckneyville Sectional, where they will play the host Panthers on Wednesday, March 2. The Hornets split their two meetings with Pinckneyville this season.
Nashville got the regional started with a matchup against the Hilltoppers on February 25. The matchup was postponed one day, due to inclement weather. The Hornets came out quick, rushing out to a 11-4 lead behind three pointers from Brady Bultman and Ryan Brink. Hillsboro roared back to take a 13-11 lead late in the first, but could not keep the lead. The Hornets took the lead back on a basket by Brink and never trailed the rest of the way. Nashville stretched the lead to four points at the end of the first quarter, and seven points at halftime.
In the third, the Hornets built their lead to as high as 11 points midway through the quarter, but Hillsboro fought back to trim the deficit to nine going into the final stanza. In the fourth, Nashville took control, and built an 18 point lead with just 1:08 left in the game. Hillsboro did not stop fighting, as the Hilltoppers got three points on five of their last six possessions. The furious Hillsboro rally would come up short, as Nashville took the game 59-53.
After the game coach Weathers talked about the win, “Ryan really shot the ball well from the perimeter and helped open things up, they were trying to collapse on Royce quite a bit and it really helped. Royce got 16 well-earned points tonight. I thought it was an extremely physical game, he ended up with 10 boards, and Brady did his normal thing, a very good team win.”
Brink led Nashville in the game with 19 points. After the game, he talked about his performance, “I just felt like we handled the ball really well, and when they started to double our point guards, I thought they found me pretty well.” Newman finished with 16 points, followed by Bultman with 11 points. Hayden Heggemeier added seven points. Jaris Dalman added three points, while Brogan Kemp had two points. Riley Edwards scored one point in the win.
The Hornets then moved into the Regional Championship game in front of a huge crowd against the host Greenville Comets. The Hornets never trailed in the game, as they defeated Greenville 72-56. The Hornets jumped out to an 18-7 lead at the end of the first quarter, and built their lead to 17 points at the halftime break, including a rare three pointer from Newman. After the game, Newman talked about the three-pointer, “ usually in the past I've had four or five threes on the year, and they didn't guard me, but this year they actually guarded me. In this game they didn't, so I took my opportunity.”
Coming out of halftime, Greenville made a short run, capitalizing on three Nashville turnovers to pull within 11, but buckets by Newman and Brink stretched the Hornet lead back to 16. Although the Hornets were outscored in the third, Nashville still held a 15 point lead going into the final quarter. In the fourth, the Hornets were able to cruise to victory, and their fourth Class 2A Regional Championship in the last five years.
Weathers talked about the fast start after the game, “ I think it was very, very important that we got off to a good start, and knocked down some perimeter shots, that opened things up for Royce. It really opened things up to get one-on-one opportunities down low, and obviously he took advantage of that.
Dalman after the game talked about being matched up on Greenville’s top scoring threat, “I gave up 17 but its about the team right now, if I can shut him down a little bit and allow our team to advance, that helps a lot.”
After the game, Bultman talked about winning a regional championship, “it's a great feeling, we work hard all year, we play a tough schedule. I know our record isn't the best like we like it to be, but its good to come out strong and finish the regional like this and come out on top.”
Weathers also talked about the Sectional matchup against Pinckneyville, “ it’s gonna be awfully, awfully tough, their team quickness and speed really caused us a lot of problems once they got ahead last game, and we’re gonna have to bring our A-game all the way arround.”
Newman finished with a game-high 30 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Bultman added 19 points in the win, followed by Brink with 11 points. Dalman added six points, and Heggemeier scored four points. Kemp scored two points to round out the scoring.